Thanks to Superstorm Sandy, the Seaside NJ boardwalk is no more, but memories remain…
On a whim one day my Mom and I drove to an artsy little town on the banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania called New Hope. It had been a long time since she visited New Hope, a place that was a retreat for my Dad and Mom when they could escape from the continuous din and needs of eight children. They would go antiquing and dining and share rare, and I do mean rare, time alone together. (Because I actually need to write this post without balling my eyes out so I don’t fry my keypad I am going to skip, for now, any talk of how my Mom raised eight children without Ego, dining out, hired help and always with a smile, genuine or faked, while my Dad worked long days and traveled the globe to provide for us.)
Those weekends felt like a month as I faced milk toast in the morning (it’s as gross as it sounds) and dodged flying food at the dinner table at night while our Uncle Art (an adopted and adored Uncle and the only person I’ve found dead…kinda of a big scary deal for an 8th grader) smoked a cigar in the family room. I can still see the peas gathered in the bottom of the glass globe of our table light as my brothers played a veggie version of basketball with their forks used to launch the peas and the layer of smoke that always lingered halfway between the wood planked floor and the beamed ceiling as my Uncle Art puffed away, able to block out the cacophony in the next room.
The last time my Mom went to New Hope before that day was with my Dad. I cherished the opportunity to spend alone time with her as much as he did. I was living at home after graduating college, my Dad had recently died and Mom and I were figuring out how to live life without him. It wasn’t easy. We were in mourning. But we created some serious magic together during that time. And that day was no exception.
We crossed the Delaware River on a bridge that linked Lambertville on the Jersey side to New Hope and chose right at the only traffic light in town. Main Street parallels the river. At the time it was lined with independent shops, art galleries and restaurants. Artisans of all flavors were represented in the various stores. One gallery caught our eye as we parked the car. It occupied half a tiny cottage with an alluring window display of unique jewelry and crafts. The kind of crafts made by people with advanced degrees in craft-making. It’s name was Zephyr.
We ventured in and parted ways as we examined various cases filled with desirable objects. I had been on a mission to find a cross made of crystal. A tall woman, part Annie Lenox and part Meryl Streep, emerged from behind a half wall to greet us. She was draped in bold colors, silky cloths, and was adorned in every possible way with delicate but prominent pieces of jewelry. She filled the tiny space with her presence; we were immediately captivated. After about ten minutes of browsing and banter she paused and said to my Mom:
You are so familiar to me. Your voice sounds exactly like the voice of a woman who was married to a man who was a client of my husband’s company.
My Mom said, T?! T said, R?!
Within seconds they realized that they had been out to dinner together, at corporate events together, had developed a friendship, all some years ago.
It was a boisterous reunion with hugs and I can’t believe this! repeated until only surprise and happiness remained.
And then the phone rang. She excused herself while we smiled knowingly at each other – He’s here. Dad wants us to know we aren’t without him, just with him in a very different way.
My attention was grabbed when I heard her say, You will never guess what just happened! I continued to explore the tightly packed shelves and try on rings and bangles. And then I heard her say,
She is here with her gorgeous daughter. (Which was very kind of her to say.)
And that single point in time changed my life forever in dramatic ways, not the ways that every single moment of time changes our lives. This was one of the true game-changers.
Her son was on the phone. He had just received the first check from a client at his new company and called his Mom to share the news. She said she would get my number for him before I left the store. And she did.
From that one encounter I fell in love, moved to a new city, and began a new career with a man who loved to go on long drives and explore abandoned buildings and scour flea markets and stare at paintings. We dated and then realized that we were best friends, he hired me and then we moved in together. It was ten kinds of relationships all rolled into one with a lifetime of experiences to treasure for the rest of my days. But one night stands out from all the rest.
He drove a few hours to pick me up at the home my Mom was still kindly sharing with me – I was the last of the tribe still at home – and then we set off for the Jersey shore. We shared a love of the boardwalk and skee ball and the kitsch of Asbury Park and Pt. Pleasant and Seaside Heights. It was our second date. After rounds of throwing wooden balls into little holes (banking is the secret to skee ball success) we walked down the boardwalk and then off it and onto the beach. Paying no attention to the intensity of the waves, we ran under the boardwalk dodging the wood pilings and came together at one, where we kissed for the first time.
For a Jersey girl it simply doesn’t get any better.
But that night it did.
The surf forced us to emerge from under the boardwalk, so we ventured south on the beach. Slowly the lights of the boardwalk faded. The beach was empty on this late winter night. Large homes gave way to small cottages and then one boarded up, tiny shack. He grabbed my hand and we crossed over the dunes and slowly approached the front door. It was still mostly boarded up but had been opened before. We pulled at the boards and made our way in. The faint smell of burned stuff and mold was evident. A fire had shuttered the shack. Who knows when. We didn’t have a flashlight and cell phones that didn’t require a suitcase hadn’t been invented. But the moon cast some light in if we left the battered door open. Which illuminated the wall to our right. We gasped.
The first room, one of three – a living room, bedroom and kitchen – had wood paneling on all four walls. Water damage was evident on three of them, but the north facing wall was blemish free. And on it was a hand painted mural of a sailor facing shore, standing up in a small boat, a boardwalk was in the foreground, a slip of beach in one corner. Behind him only waves. He had a sash across his jacket. A lighthouse guided him. It was a simple painting done in only white with a small brush. It was signed, Kathy and dated, ’70.
We had to have it.
Over the next week we hatched a plan and called in some favors. I secured a battery powered, portable jigsaw, quite a feat in the very early 90s, and he looked up the next full moon. We met at the house and began the process of breaking and entering and stealing a painting. Or a wall. However you want to see it.
It took two nights of hard labor and the kindness of a man who let me charge the battery in his auto shop without asking me any questions (No, no, I’m not cutting up a dead body!), but we finally removed the three panels that made up Kathy’s work of art. They eventually hung together in our warehouse style apartment we shared with three Maine Coon cats and about a thousand clocks.
I don’t recall exactly how long it was before I realized Kathy’s inspiration for the painting, but it had been on the wall for many months. We both adored it – the rough edges cut by a single blade, the simple strokes as if she painted it in minutes, the story behind it all. I would often lean against the opposite wall and just stare at it. Then, one night, I discovered what inspired her. I was stunned when it all clicked into place, marveling at how such a detail could have escaped both of us given the amount of attention we showered upon her creation.
The seascape had the odd addition of a ship captain standing in a small rowboat bobbing on the waves and facing me. He seemed delightfully out of place, as if central casting sent the wrong type of captain to the artist’s studio; a captain of an ocean liner dressed in his finest instead of the crusty fisherman engulfed by his waders. One night, as I stood in the long hallway that connected the living room to our front door, one long enough to hang a wall sized piece of art that measured 10 feet by five high, I noticed a little bit of fuzziness on his chest. I leaned in closer. The simple white paint co-mingled with something… With my eyes fixated on the fuzz my brain started firing, analyzing, and then determining that Kathy made the best of what happens when you pull a poster off the wall in a humid environment and it leaves a trace. A trace of fibers.
Instead of scratching off the one inch of paper that remained, the blemish on her paneling with simulated wood grain, she created an entire masterpiece around it. One special enough for us to risk arrest and rescue it from certain demolition to hang in our home. It was the only thing I wanted when we eventually, after years of living together, moved into our own homes. It was also the only thing he wanted.
He won. And we remained best friends for years. He was my boss, my mentor, he held my hand through some challenging times. I held back tears when I told him I was getting married. When I told his Mom and Dad, whom had taken me on as a daughter, they seemed to hold back tears, too. At the time, and I still feel this way, we all knew that he and I weren’t to be life partners. Just at the time that we were considering rekindling our relationship (or at least I was) my former spouse appeared, and ten weeks later any chance at a reconciliation was a mute point when I said Yes after my former spouse said Will you?
As I prepared to write this post I thought of Kathy and her inspiration, something I haven’t thought about in years. How a fuzzy little mess turned into a work of art that continues to be cherished to this day. And how that mural continues to affect me, years after I cut it out, panel by panel, hoping the sound of the saw wouldn’t attract the law, forcing us to call our parents and say, Can you come bail us new lovebirds out of jail? While the Pocket Call and the subsequent divorce cannot in any way be termed a fuzzy little mess, I, like Kathy, chose to be inspired by a mess. She chose to find a brush and a can of house paint and I chose to write. The discovery of her painting launched a new period of significant growth in my life just as the discovery of my former spouse’s affair also launched a new period of growth.
It wasn’t long after the discovery of Kathy’s mural that I made the decision to become an executive recruiter and join the new business my then boyfriend had started. It became my career for over a decade. I worked with many remarkable people, Mr. Simplicity among them, helping to build companies and shape careers. Another wonderful memory with my Mom was when I invited her to Hawaii to be there when I was celebrated by my peers for being one of the best in the country. In the top ten. Number 6 to be exact. Out of a thousand others who did what I did for a living. I wasn’t the best sales person, certainly not the most efficient or organized, but I was very good at making matches and at helping people make significant, life-changing choices. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my intuition was one of my greatest assets. I could intuit what my clients’ and candidates’ souls needed.
When HGM was a few months old and people starting finding me, finding solace in reading about my journey, I started receiving emails from those dealing with infidelity and divorce. On the site kittens chimed in with each post to offer support and say, Me, too! (I so miss you, but accept that it’s part of this cycle of growth.) Requests for help were met with my outstretched hand. It’s been a natural role for me all my life. One I cherish. I’ve saved every email, including those from the two who thought less with each post about taking their own life and choosing to love themselves instead, and the one from a young girl who stopped cutting herself as she began to love herself and appreciate what her Mom was going through after the discovery of her Dad’s affair. Those emails and every other email and comment became my lifeline.
My gratitude is beyond description.
Last year I had the opportunity to work informally and one-on-one with a half dozen people who were dealing with infidelity, divorce or hearts that felt beaten. We took to the trails or walked on the beach and magical transformations occurred. Shifts in consciousness and perception. Game-changing moments. Not through months of therapy but through moments in Nature with me as a guide. I also benched my Ego last year, a necessary event for me and for being able to guide others in their rhythm, not dictating a course but helping them to discover their own inspiration. The path their wise soul wishes to take.
This is what I was meant to do. What I feel is my own soul’s path.
So, the shingle on the Calmmune has been hung. It doesn’t have letters after my name, by choice. Just as I chose not to read any self help books or continue to participate in therapy after Dr. K – Couples Counseling Works! – bid me farewell. (I saw her a few weeks ago by chance. She said, You’ve done all the work yourself. I disagreed. I said, The kittens held my hand the entire time.) Degrees in counseling will not embellish what comes naturally to me. And years as a counselor in the business world gives me a foundation in helping people move through major life changes. If I were to put any letters after my name it would be this: GBI: Guided By Intuition.
My writing fulfills me. The first year of HGM will be released in a few weeks as an ebook. (I’d do a print version but it’s a whopping 160,000 words!) No major changes and no added chapters to disguise the fact that it’s the blog in book form. It’s being released because it helped those who found it. Not so hidden in my thrice weekly posts is a certain kind of self help book. More Celestine Prophecy (self-help via narrative) than Dr. Phil. Now I want to find those who need it by making it available to an audience beyond those who relish blogs. I will continue to blog here and be part of DivorcedMoms as it grows. And I will start my next book – a novel! – after I make it down from the summit of Mt. Rainier. But what is clear is that my most important role, beyond being a Mom, is to inspire and illuminate a path for those finding their way after being blindsided by betrayal and dealing with divorce.
I’m not going to Maverick this. No fancy tag lines or letterhead or marketing campaigns. Like with HGM, I’ll rely on word of mouth and encounters engineered by the Universe. Manifesting this new career takes only the willingness to say, I’m worthy. I value the opportunity to help others right here, right now and I have value. And, according to those with whom I’ve had the privilege to guide, it works. It being that which I channel when I see the soul of a person who stands before me, then putting it into words and actions that manifest magic.
Part counselor, part empath, part been there, lived it. Took chances, discovered that being vulnerable isn’t scary but enlivening, and found that what may seem to be a fuzzy mess or a tragic situation is created so we can bloom.
I’ll whip up a page here to outline this new venture over the next few days, but for now the Facebook page and the Contact page here will provide some details. I will charge for time (currency is something I’ve had to learn to be willing to accept), but also commit to at least four hours a month gratis for those who can’t afford but need guidance. I’d do this for free if I could. And I will as often as I can.
In addition to working one-on-one with you magical beings, I will also be putting together a weekend retreat here in Bolinas for late May or early June. I am so excited, now that I have accepted that I am worthy of it. The energy of this mystical land will help us accept blessings even when they look like burdens and welcome transformation as we look at our creations and acknowledge the signs that illuminate our path. The one we perfectly crafted so long ago.
Kathy, whoever you are, you have now ushered in two game-changing times in my life. With the internet, I imagine there is a way to find you. And if I do, be ready to receive an insane amount of gratitude. A picture of your mural will hopefully arrive in my inbox soon so I can post it. I miss that little captain.
Before I go, remember the Magician? I mentioned him several weeks back. Well, we’re going to meet again. And this time I’m letting it all hang out.